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Beginning to SpellA Study of First-Grade Children$
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Rebecca Treiman

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780195062199

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195062199.001.0001

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5 (p.128) Consonants
Beginning to Spell

Rebecca Treiman

Oxford University Press

Learning to spell involves learning about the relations between the phonemes of the spoken language and the graphemes of the printed language. In Chapter 4, I asked how children learn these relations for vowels. The results showed that a number of factors affect children’s learning, including their exposure to printed words, their knowledge of letter names, and their phonological systems. In this chapter, I turn to consonants. I ask whether these same factors affect children’s spelling of consonants. This chapter focuses on substitution errors and, to a lesser extent, correct spellings. Consonant omission errors will be considered in detail in Chapter 8. Sometimes, the first graders’ most common spellings of consonant phonemes were those spellings that are most frequent in the conventional English system. However, the children’s spellings did not always mirror those of conventional English. The children sometimes used a grapheme that never represents the phoneme in the standard system; that is, an illegal spelling. As in Chapter 4, I focus on illegal spellings that occurred at rates of 2.5% or more. I ask why the children selected that particular grapheme to represent the phoneme. In other cases, the students used a legal spelling significantly more often than expected given its frequency in the conventional system. Again, factors other than exposure to the relations between phonemes and graphemes in English words must be responsible for the error. I ask what these factors are. As in Chapter 4, I use binomial tests to compare the frequencies of correspondences in children’s spelling to the frequencies of the correspondences in the conventional spellings of the same words. In this section, the children’s spellings of various consonant phonemes are discussed. The reader may find it helpful to refer to the consonant chart of Figure 1.5 when reading this section. The stop consonants of English are /p/, /t/, /k/, /b/, /d/, and /g/. In discussing how the children spelled these consonants, I will first consider the children’s spellings without regard to the contexts in which the consonants occurred. Next, I will discuss some errors that occurred for stop consonants in particular contexts.

Keywords:   Affrication, Flaps, Phonemes, Unaspirated stops, Voice onset time, Whole-language instruction

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